Saturday, August 27, 2011


This closed fuel station is in Ashtabula, Ohio, a place brimming with abandoned retail properties. It offers a glimpse of the recent past, when the local economy was attempting to grow along Route 20.

A self-guided, westbound tour along this Buckeye boulevard reveals lots of local history. Many businesses have come and gone here, along Lake Erie. A lucky few have survived. But the potential for revival remains... when market conditions make it possible.

“Geauga – Buy It Now!”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

For collectors and yard-sale enthusiasts, eBay represents a resource of boundless proportions. The online marketplace makes it possible to buy cast-off trinkets and forgotten relics without traveling. In an age when the cost of fuel has risen to frightening levels, this alone would be enough to sustain its prominence. But the savings in time is also considerable. Even those with daunting family or career responsibilities can find a moment to log on, and search for artifacts of all kinds.

On eBay, one might expect to discover household appliances, electronic devices, and sports memorabilia. But among their many listings are items more closely tied to home.

Yes, Geauga County is part of the online consumer continuum.

A recent search on the website revealed several interesting local items for sale:


Price: US $25.00 Buy It Now

“Antique real photo postcard, features: Main Street & Chardon House, Chardon, Ohio. Published by the Leiter Post Card Co., 310 Broadway, Lorain, Ohio. KRUXO stamp box with tiny corner circles, indicating years of 1908 - 1920s. Absolutely gorgeous street scene of Main Street, Chardon, Ohio. The large building at the back of the photo clearly has a huge sign that reads: Chardon House. This is Chardon Square and with my magnifying glass I can pick out the town clock, and a sign on the right that reads: R.L. BOSTWICK. I can see a barbershop pole and a really neat light colored buggy with the name on the side of it reading: R.F. Goodrich. It appears to be a delivery wagon. On the far left in the foreground is a wonderful horses drinking fountain! One of the neatest street scenes I have had for a while.”


Price: US $9.99 Buy It Now

“Here is your chance to add to your collection of vintage postcards. You are bidding on this great real photo postcard from Chardon, Ohio. This card shows a real photo view of Business Storefronts 1907. Tears and creases on card. Please judge the condition by the scan. This card is postmarked 1907.”


Price: US $9.86 Buy It Now

“Early days in Geauga County, OH and its communities of Chardon, Middlefield, Huntsburg, Burton, Chester Cross Roads, and Parkman, are recalled through a mixture of colorful tales and factual data in this NEW 16 Page Booklet of excerpts reproduced directly from the 1892 Centennial edition of Henry Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio and other hard-to-find sources. The spiral-bound booklet is single-sided on 60# paper, with the fine print enlarged for easier reading. Illustrations include a picture of the public square in Chardon in 1846, the Chardon public square in 1887 and making maple sugar. Among the many and diverse topics covered in the booklet are: hardships of early settlers, the Great Drought of 1845, the New Connecticut People, the Western Reserve, the maple sugar industry, cheese making, fishing, the abundance of widows and an anecdote concerning Rutherford B. Hayes. A 1933 history of newspapers in the county, a brief look at Ohio's maple sugar industry (1941), and maps showing the 88 Ohio counties and 1805 Ohio are also included. Genealogy buffs will find a list of 1888 county officers and businesses, and biographical information on Gov. Seabury Ford, Judge Peter Hitchcock (father of the Constitution of Ohio), Gen. Mortimer D. Leggett (who fought for free schools in Ohio), and remarkable Civil War veteran E.P. Latham.”


Price: US $19.95 Buy It Now

“We offer you this beautiful steel engraving of Delos W. Canfield. He was born at Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio, September 21st, 1828, is the fifth son of Platt Canfield, a farmer of prominence, who removed from Tyringham, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, several years before, and who cultivated an extensive farm in Geauga county, until his death, in 1841. His grandfather, Aaron Canfield, a grandson of Colonel Samuel Canfield, of New Milford, Connecticut, who was a colonel in the Revolutionary army, the father of Platt, came from Massachusetts with a brother in 1814, and made large purchases of farm and village property in Chardon. Through his mother, who was born a Read, he was related to T. Buchanan Read, the poet, painter. His education was principally obtained in the schools of Chardon, under Professors Holbrook and Harvey.”


Price: US $24.95 Buy It Now

“Printed in 1914 by the Ohio Division of the National Highways Association, this is a beautifully detailed, 97-year-old map of Geauga County. It measures about 10 1/2 by 13 1/2 inches (about 27 by 34 cm.), and is in Fine condition. This map is very detailed showing topographical features (rivers, lakes, creeks, etc.), townships, cities, villages and Post Office towns, routes of old railroads, and of course old roads and highways. These are marked ‘Inter-County Highways’ and County Roads. There are no asphalt or concrete roads - nothing like what we would call a highway today - not even the old US Highway or the States Highway systems, although many of the Inter-County roads shown on this map were later incorporated into modern highway systems. Scale is about three miles to the inch.”

One can conclude with certainty that Geauga County is an important part of America - even in cyberspace!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quinn's Market, North Bloomfield, Ohio

This out-of-the-way store has fascinated me for years. I first discovered it when visiting the North Bloomfield Flea Market, many years ago. The curved architecture of its roof immediately captured my notice. Nothing like it exists anywhere in the area.

I suspect that originally, the area above this store's front facade was open glass. It would fit the bygone "marina roof" designs seen elsewhere across North America in the Baby Boom era.

Inside, both ladies at the cash register were dressed in light blue uniforms with the Quinn's logo. A quick walk around the store revealed lots of open space - a clear indicator that the building had originally housed a regular grocery store. But - what chain would have operated in such a remote location? The store design didn't look like an old A & P or Kroger.
I left with a smile... and lots of unanswered questions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


When I first came to northeastern Ohio in 1983, one of the most intriguing things I noted about this area was the abandoned Stuckey's in Austinburg. I saw it only in passing while traveling west on Interstate 90. But in the years that followed, this relic of bygone culture would become a destination I visited many times over.

At least twice in recent years, I took photographs of the vacant Stuckey's and posted them here. Now, I am glad to have documented its existence. Because... it is gone.

A Sunday drive to Austinburg produced sadness and regret as I pulled into the truck lot behind McDonald's and Burger King... and saw this empty patch of ground:

All that remained of the original building (above) was a small PVC pipe coupling, in the grass.

The skeletal outline of a Stuckey's sign still stands next to one for Burger King. Only it bears witness to what was once a thriving location for America's bygone travel-plaza giant.

Friday, August 19, 2011

“Craver Synchronicity”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Synchronicity - the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung in the 1920s.

- From Wikipedia

For this writer, one persistent desire has echoed quietly throughout the passage of summer – a need for White Castle hamburgers. Not the frozen, store-marketed variety, of course. But genuine, greasy, off-the-grill sliders.

When I lived in New York, friends would routinely drive hundreds of miles to enjoy this fast-food treat. I found that habit somewhat amusing, when considering the neo-hippie, dietary correctness that usually prevailed around Cornell University.
After moving back to Ohio, my own relationship with these square delights was renewed, with vigor.

Typically, I would pause at the Brookpark & Pearl Road location, when heading back to Geauga from events at the I-X Center. Each order grew bigger than the last, until I graduated to a ‘Crave Case’ of thirty sliders with cheese.

Yet changing traditions in the household eventually produced a lull in my road-food activity. Two years elapsed without a trip to the Castle.

The arrival of warmer weather stirred whispering voices in my head, however. “Feed the craving,” they said. “Feed it now!”

I endured this burger-delic siren call until the time arrived for our annual Ice reunion.

The event is held every summer in Gallia County, which is located about five hours away, on the Ohio River. Attending the family fest is a recent phenomenon – for many years, getting a Saturday off from work was simply impossible. But now, I look forward to sharing stories about my grandparents’ farm in Columbus, and the wandering trek of our forebears from Europe to the wild territory that would become America.

While driving south on I-77, a White Castle sign around Akron reminded me that the nation’s oldest fast-food establishment had an outpost in that region. Each mile afterward had the voices returning, with gusto. “Saved by the crave!” they shouted. “Crave! Crave! Crave!”

Synchronicity appeared, shining brightly like a star in the sky. Family… and food.
Our reunion stilled these slider spirits, for a few hours. I talked about Civil War reenacting, with relatives from Brunswick. And about a trip to Israel with other family members who live in Indiana. I even considered the subject of guitar collecting with one of my cousin’s sons.

Then, long after the day began, I was on the highway again. Rain splattered the road intermittently, making the northward drive through Canton a chore. Every flicker of light was reflected a hundred times over. I peered through the weeping wetness with tired eyes. It was about 1:30 in the morning.

Suddenly, the White Castle sign reappeared.

The voices in my head were deafening. “Crave! Crave! Feed the crave!” I turned off at Arlington Road. When I reached their drive-thru window, the clerk on duty seemed half-awake. Her fatigue appropriately matched my own. I struggled to read the menu board, finally ordering a sack of bacon-and-cheddar sliders, and a Coke.

The meal revived my stamina. At last, there were no voices to be heard. Only a rowdy, urban preacher from the dashboard radio. The remaining drive to Thompson passed blissfully as I savored each bite.

The journey ended just before three o’clock. My neighborhood was quiet. I sat in front of the computer for a moment, and drifted off into a steamed-onion dream state, while checking out White Castle online:

“How do you sustain successful growth since 1921? Being family-run, when others franchise, doesn’t hurt. It helps maintain the trailblazing attitude which made us the first fast-food hamburger chain. The first to sell a million hamburgers. The first to sell a billion hamburgers. And the first to sell frozen fast food. But that would just be a part of the answer. In truth, our power comes from the undying loyalty of the Cravers across the nation. It is because of them and through them that we go on. The more you crave, the more we serve. And that is why we continue to grow. More on the menu, more locations on the map and more Cravers enjoying both. White Castle is more than a company. It’s an experience that transcends time, space and sometimes, rational thought. For almost a century our unique approach has made our food the answer to what you crave. And we’re planning on that continuing long past 100 years.”


13201 Superior Ave.
Intersection of Superior Rd. & Emily St.
East Cleveland OH, 44112
(216) 451-8805

5095 Northfield Rd.
Intersection of Northfield Rd. & Norton
Bedford Hts. OH, 44146
(216) 587-1949

5151 Pearl Rd.
Intersection of Pearl (Rt. 42) & Brookpark
Cleveland OH, 44129
(216) 398-5155

3255 W. 117th St.
Intersection of West 117th St. & Triskett Rd.
Cleveland OH, 44111
(216) 251-5150

2900 S. Arlington Rd.
Intersection of I77 & Arlington Rd.
Akron OH, 44312
(330) 644-0091

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Friday, August 12, 2011

“Geauga in Print: Part Two”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

While researching online newspaper archives to read about past events in Geauga County history, one particular story caught my attention.

It was a report about the earthquake that struck our area in 1986.

At the time, I was employed at Fisher’s Big Wheel, a department store located on Water Street in Chardon.

After working a twelve-hour overnight shift, I returned home to my residence on Maple Avenue. Family conversation ensued, as I skimmed lazily through an issue of the Geauga Times-Leader. Television news flickered in the background. Macaroni and cheese bubbled on the stove.

Finally, as fatigue took hold, I poured a cup of coffee and dished out a plate of food. My eyes were heavy. In a dream-like state, I began to eat.

Suddenly, there was a sound like the impact of a large truck hitting our house. I jumped up from the dining room table. The walls were literally moving back and forth. I gasped, thinking the house was about to collapse.

And then it was over.

Later, we would call it the ‘Great Quake’ of Geauga.

Reading this old story revived my recollections of this unusual event:

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal - February 1, 1986

A strong earthquake near Cleveland rumbled through nine states and part of Canada on Friday, shattering glass, sounding an alarm at an unfinished nuclear plant, shutting off three coal-fired generators and slightly injuring two people.

The U.S. Geological Survey in Washington estimated that the quake, which occurred at 11:47 a.m. EST, had a magnitude of 5.0 on the Richter scale of ground movement and was centered 30 miles northeast of Cleveland.

“I’ve been through tornadoes and floods, but nothing like this,” said Betty McFarland, a bus driver for the Mentor public school in Ohio’s Lake County, where two people were treated for cuts from flying glass and falling ceiling tiles.

Emergency alarms were activated and employees were sent home at the Perry nuclear plant, 35 miles east of Cleveland, but Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. spokesman Lee Bailey said there was no structural damage. Fuel rods on the site waiting to be loaded in reactors were not damaged, he said.

Bailey said the earthquake knocked out a 650-megawatt generator at the company’s Eastlake coal-burning plant. However, other generators picked up the slack and no outages were reported.

Two coal-fired generators at the Belle River power plant near Marine City, Mich. also shut down because the tremor triggered a safety device which detects excess vibration, said Carla Gribbs, spokeswoman for Detroit Edison Co.

Electric service was not affected, she said.

The quake was felt in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin and as far north as Barrie, Ontario. Ira Stohlman, a City Council staff member in Washington, D.C., said the city government building two blocks from the White House shook.

“The ceiling looked like it was going to fall down,” said Mike Hodgins, a senior at Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, a suburb about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland. “It was just like in the movies. The walls were shaking back and forth.”

In Chardon, Ohio, panes of glass shattered at a grocery store.

Mentor police dispatcher Jeff Ackerman said a Sears store was closed at the Great Lakes Mall because of the quake, but he knew of no injuries. He said at least one older school building was evacuated to check for cracks.

“This quake was significantly larger than previous Ohio quakes, with the exception of one or two in the 1930’s,” said Mark Wilson, a professor of geology at the College of Wooster. “It’s a substantial quake for Ohio, but comparatively minor when you think on an international scale.”

Today, the Great Quake of Geauga has become part of local folklore. I remember seeing a cracked interior wall at Big Wheel, soon after the historic event. Friends who worked at Kresse’s Bi-Rite supermarket in Chardon spoke about jars of spaghetti sauce jumping off their shelves. The result was a mess.

Strangely, a friend who lived in Munson was driving back from Columbus when the quake struck. He felt nothing while traveling north on I-71.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

“Geauga in Print”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

When I was a sports editor for a local newspaper in another county, our managing supervisor liked to say that the product we were creating had lasting value. He often observed that what we published today might be read by someone a hundred years into the future.

His wisdom made me take extra care with what I wrote.

Recently, I was reminded of the lasting importance carried by newspaper text, while doing archival research.

Untold millions of words have been written in the long history of American journalism. But a local perspective on this profession appeared as I read stories that spoke about places and people so close to home:

The Portsmouth Times, December 19, 1962

“CHARDON, Ohio – A push-button telephone went into use Tuesday in this Geauga County seat. The Mid-Continent Telephone Corp. said it was the first use of the push-button telephone on a commercial basis in the United States. The new telephone utilizes push buttons to actuate electronic pulses in place of conventional equipment. Use of the new instruments, called ‘Touch Tone’ or ‘Touch Button’ is made possible, the company said, by a significant development in communications – the first solid-state electronic telephone switching equipment tied to a conventional electromechanical central office. The first call to be push-button over Chardon’s new equipment was made by Congressman-Elect Oliver P. Bolton to Gov.-Elect James A. Rhodes in Columbus. Mid-Continent, which has headquarters in Elyria, said the new telephones will become available early next year to subscribers in Kenton.”

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 5, 1959

“CHARDON, Ohio – Farmers may soon be able to tap a maple tree by turning on a spigot. A plastic pipeline for gathering maple sap as been developed. It may make the aluminum buckets and plastic bags now being used as obsolete as the old oaken bucket. Tubes tapped into each tree are tied into a main pipeline which sends the sap pouring into centrally-located gathering tanks. Maple syrup production is a major farm industry in parts of northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Farmers contend their syrup is just as good as that produced in Vermont.”

The Reading Eagle, April 20, 1958

“Chardon, Ohio – When motorists in Geauga County are arrested by Deputy Sheriff Tom Murray they are apt to lose more than fine money and time in court. Deputy Murray is a pencil collector. More often than not he borrows the violator’s pencil to write the ticket and, if the pencil is unusual enough, he will ask if he may keep it. Murray, who started collecting pencils 16 years ago, has more than 5,000 in his collection. Some of the unusual pencils in the collection are a German-made one that telescopes to a one-foot ruler, one that holds aspirin and another that contains a roll of paper. Products advertised on the pencils range from fertilizer to whisky. The pencils come in a variety of shapes, such as umbrellas, bullets, whisky bottles, nails, guns, and bowling pins. Murray also has a pencil in his collection inscribed, ‘Murray for Sheriff.’ He lost the election two years ago by 2,000 votes.”

The St. Petersburg Times, November 30, 1930

“Bitter winter weather abated today from the middlewest to the Atlantic ocean. In its wake, record low temperatures for November gave way to rain, light snow, or cloudiness which promised precipitation by tomorrow or Monday… Farmers rode into Chardon, Ohio, on horseback through six-foot drifts to get food for families snowbound since Thanksgiving Day. Motorists caught in the vicinity in 26 inches of snow sought refuge in farm houses; one such farm home held 32 persons.”

Writers take note – though flesh may be mortal, our words can survive, and endure… for generations to come.

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